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ITIL :: View topic - Couple of basic problem management questions!
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Couple of basic problem management questions!

 
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ITIL_Thee
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Joined: Jun 29, 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:49 am    Post subject: Couple of basic problem management questions! Reply with quote

Been chipping away at problem management for a while and have 2 common queries I get asked and was hoping for some help!

1. A problem gets assigned KE status right away as the analyst "knows about it", rather than having a root cause and a work around! What's a good way of explaining the difference?

2. Recurring incidents that are due to user/training gaps - should these generate problem records?

Much obliged folks!
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asrilrm
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Joined: Oct 07, 2007
Posts: 441
Location: Jakarta, INA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

To answer your first question, in the ITIL Service Support book, it is defined that a Known Error is "a condition identified by successful diagnosis of the root cause of a Problem, and the subsequent development of a Work-around."
Assigning KE to a problem just because it is known by analysts would not meet the criteria mentioned above.
I would call it "Known Problem".

To your second question, I think there are many ways to classify incidents caused by user/training gap.
Ok, the root cause is known and a workaround is probably given, but a fix solution might not be established so these kind of incidents would likely occur in the future.
I'm sorry but to this question I don't have the answer

Cheers,
Asril
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Marcel
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When explaining Problem vs Known Error I would sometimes call the Problem an "Unknown Error" to drive home the key difference between the two. If you use a term like this (or like Known Problem as the previous poster suggested), be careful to only use it in the context of explaining the principles. Don't use it outside this context since it may cause confusion, especially with people who are familiar with the ITIL terminology.

Recurring incidents that stem from procedural/training issues can certainly drive problem records and subsequently known errors once it has been determined what the gap in the procedure/expertise exactly is. Be sure to define the scope of your process though, because with procedural issues there is a chance of getting far away from IT and ending up with problems within business processes (maybe you don't mind, which is fine, as long as you are aware of it). In our Problem Mgmt process we will only track problems that are directly related to the actual use of IT systems (hardware as well as software).

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Fortune 100 Company
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ITIL_Thee
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for the pointers - it's good to get another perspective on what's really semantics!
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nzmoko
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marcel wrote:
When explaining Problem vs Known Error I would sometimes call the Problem an "Unknown Error" to drive home the key difference between the two.


Hi Marcel, I also tend to use the term "Unknown error" as it drives "less" confusion Wink
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Diarmid
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ITIL_Thee wrote:
Many thanks for the pointers - it's good to get another perspective on what's really semantics!


What you asked about is not really semantics. It is far more important.

If your analyst knows what the problem is then s/he only has to document this knowledge and (hey presto!) you will have your root cause analysis and workaround complete. If s/he does not know enough to do this then s/he does not know enough about it for you to rely on the information.

A Known Error is an entity, not a status. It is referred to by incident management in order for them to resolve incidents that emanate from that error. In my opinion a known error can be set up as soon as you have enough information to define a practical (and not unduly risky) workaround; you may change or modify this workaround as you learn more about the cause of the problem right up until you have your "root" cause.

Incidents that occur due to inappropriate user actions may indicate lack of training, lack of appropriate capabilities, stressful working conditions, unduly complex user-interfaces, lack of documentation, high staff turnover and probably some more things. The likelihood of incident staff correctly diagnosing the underlying cause is not easily determined, if for no other reason than that they should be focussed on getting the user back working pronto.

Problem Management should be capable of observing the frequency of such incidents and doing sufficient analysis to determine whether it is in fact a problem. It is a problem if the occurrence makes a measurable dent in the user community's productivity or if it causes Incident Management a significant burden.

If it is a problem, then Problem Management should be capable of diagnosing it and determining a solution. The fact that the solution may not be technical is neither here nor there because the problem exists within Service Delivery. It is the achievement of the solution that may be out of scope and therefore require intelligent dialogue between the business and Service Management.

A problem is never an unknown error it is a defective situation in Service Delivery and it remains so until it is fixed. The key difference between a problem and a known error is that the first is as above and the latter is as further above.

Generally, a known error will be created as a result of identifying and analysing a problem. But it is conceivable for a known error to have so little import that it is not helpful to expend Problem Management resources on it. however this will only be practical in some environments.
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Marcel
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Diarmid wrote:
A Known Error is an entity, not a status. It is referred to by incident management in order for them to resolve incidents that emanate from that error. In my opinion a known error can be set up as soon as you have enough information to define a practical (and not unduly risky) workaround; you may change or modify this workaround as you learn more about the cause of the problem right up until you have your "root" cause.


I agree with you that the difference between Problem and Known Error is more than just semantics. They are indeed separate entities that can and should be managed separately. I'm a bit troubled though by the suggestion that you could have a Known Error once you identify a proper workaround for a Problem but have not yet identified the root cause. In my mind all you have at that point is a Problem (the unknown underlying cause of one or more incidents or potential incidents) with a workaround.

ITIL suggests that a Known Error is a problem for which the root cause has been found and a workaround is available. With the 'adopt and adapt' motto in mind, I would argue that it is fine to set up a Known Error even when there is no workaround. The other way around strikes me as odd and I'm not sure what purpose it would serve. Let's look at some examples from my Problem Mgmt practice.

Example 1
Users are frequently reporting slow performance of function X in application ABC. A Problem is logged to drive the root cause analysis. There is no workaround available (unless you consider "don't perform function X" as a workaround). The investigation finds two root causes: 1) a SQL query invoked by function X has inefficient logic and 2) one of the tables used heavily by the query is not indexed. Each issue is recorded as a separate Known Error which now drives the resolution effort. Note that these Known Errors may be prioritized differently (e.g. because one is believed to be a bigger contributor to the problem) and handled by different groups and people. Further incidents would continue to be reported against the open Problem record, not against the two Known Errors. It would not be productive for the service desk to associate an incident with both Known Errors nor would it make sense to just pick one of them.

Example 2
Print jobs get stuck when legal size paper is being selected instead of the default letter size. The frequent occurrence is reason to open a Problem record. The workaround for associated incidents is to cancel the print job and then resize the print so it will fit on letter size paper. As part of the investigation it is quickly determined that these incidents only affect a specific printer model and started occurring right after a firmware upgrade. There is a clear suspicion here, there is a workaround, but there is no root cause yet. It is also decided that the problem does not occur so frequently that it warrants reversing the firmware upgrade. In other words there is no Known Error at this point for which a resolution can be pursued. It is not until the exact bug in the firmware has been identified that a Known Error can be set up to.

As the examples show, the different entities of Problem and Known Error serve different purposes. Problems drive investigation; Known Errors drive resolution. It is also clear that a single Problem may result in the identification of multiple root causes or contributing factors. A Problem is a fairly abstract entity primarily defined by its symptoms. A Known Error is a more 'tangible' entity, defined by an identified specific flaw in an IT Service defined by the, whether it is a bug in a line of code, a faulty hardware component, or a lack of user training.

This perspective is in conflict with the suggestion made in the quote from the previous post. I am of course interested to learn about different point of views and the rationale/purpose behind those views.
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Caperz
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to raise a new post about Known Errors as this is an interesting topics that seems to have different views and opinions.

Please see my post. I think it might be a good idea to debate Known Error management over there.
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